Life Update

Pardon the huge lag in posting I’ve done lately. I’ve been incredibly busy and I think this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to actually sit down and breathe in a couple weeks.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

City Year Graduation

On Wednesday, June 15th I graduated from City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley after two years of service. Graduating this time around felt, well, different. Last year I knew that I would be coming back for a senior corps year but this time it was actually over. But I don’t feel sad about leaving San Jose. While there is a lot I am going to miss, I had an absolutely amazing experience and have taken away so much from my time there.

As Dr. Suess said, “Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened.” I truly believe that whole heartedly.

Lake Tahoe

After working incredibly hard for 11 months, its only natural to want to celebrate that. And celebrate we did. With the help of my friend Jane, I planned a 3 day vacation in Lake Tahoe for around 40-45 people. We rented a gorgeous eight bedroom house and had a really amazing time.

It was really nice to spend time getting to know people that I hadn’t had the chance to over the year. And of course, Lake Tahoe is absolutely gorgeous, so you can’t go wrong with that.

Train Trip

A few friends and I decided that instead of flying off to our separate destinations, we would stay in vacation mode by taking a train from San Jose, CA all the way to Rochester, NY. It was 72 hours of traveling which may sound daunting, but it was actually a heck of a lot of fun.

We had sleeper cars from LA to Chicago which was great because it was quiet, all of our meals were provided and we had access to showers.

We went from San Jose to Santa Barbara to LA to Chicago and then finally to Rochester. In Chicago we had a six hour layover so we toured around Chicago and even had the chance to stop by the City Year office where the wonderful Johnny Barr gave us a tour and told us more about the service that the Chicago site provides for the schools.

While the ride from Chicago to Rochester was a living nightmare, I would definitely recommend taking the trip for anyone who is even slightly interested. Just be sure to get a sleeper car!


For the past three years, I’ve had a going away/welcome home party called Bakerfest. Its always a really great time for me because I have friends from all over the place come together.

And despite getting iced… twice… it was a great time.

I also got to do some fun stuff with Nick, Dan and Deborah while we were here. We went to Hamlin Beach, grilled out and played bocce at my friend Lauren’s house and went up to Niagara Falls to ride the Maid of the Mist. I’m so glad that they were able to come stay with me for the long weekend and tour around upstate NY. It made life here seem more exciting somehow, and gave me an excuse to be touristy.

Next Steps

As most of you know, I’m moving to Boston today. I’m really excited to start this next chapter in my life. This past week I was formally offered a temporary position at City Year, Inc. as an Online Community Coordinator. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into social media at City Year both at the local and national level and am incredibly excited to be welcomed onto the team at a full-time capacity for the summer. I start work on Tuesday. Wish me luck!

In September I will be beginning a Master’s program at Emerson College where I will be majoring in Communications Management with a focus on Stakeholder Communication and Public Relations. I’m really thrilled to be back in the academic environment and know that having this educational development will only further my career.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout all of this. My friends in San Jose, my mentors in the City Year network (especially Mike Messina, Kim Brown and Megan O’Leary) and everyone at home who makes it harder and harder for me to move away.

Here’s to the next adventure.

Five things Friday

1. Sons of Anarchy

Fun fact, the actor who plays Jax is actually British! It's like a hotter, more bad ass House!

If you haven’t seen this TV show yet, you totally need to. It is about a motorcycle club based in a fictional town in Northern California called Charming. It focuses on the main character, Jax Teller, who is the Vice President of the club. Essentially, it is about how he grapples with still being a part of the club even though it is heading in a direction he doesn’t think is right.

Sons of Anarchy is the highest rated show in FX history, which has aired some other really awesome shows such as Nip/Tuck, Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Lie to Me. You can catch seasons 1-2 streaming on Netflix. Totally worth checking it out.

2. Violence escalating in San Jose

San Jose, CA is known as one of the safest large cities in the country… or at least it used to be. This year so far, we’ve already doubled the murder rate in San Jose compared to last year. And with police officer layoffs looming, it can’t mean good things.

Most recently, there was a murder-suicide in a San Jose State University parking garage that took place pretty close to my apartment that left three people dead. In what looks like a suspected love triangle, a man killed his wife and one of her fellow students as they sat in a car. Check out this article for more details.

3. GOOD is hiring

I’ve talked about plenty of times on my blog. They are pretty much the epitome of what I love about social media. They recently announced that they are hiring (one of the positions is a social media manager job… hello, my dream!) But since I’m going to grad school and am relocating to Boston, MA, those dreams will have to be put on hold for now.

As for my friends living in LA and NYC, you should check out their postings and see if anything catches your eye.

4. Rochester area brain drain

New demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed what is a surprise to, well no one – young people are leaving the Rochester, NY area.

It is unfortunate since Rochester is a pretty cool city. I seriously considered going back there after I was done with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, but the job market kept me from going back despite getting accepted into RIT (was even offered a damn good scholarship).

When the admissions person asked me why I was turning them down, I had to answer honestly: there are no opportunities for me there. It is sad for me because I don’t think I will ever be able to live there and pursue a successful career in my chosen field. Maybe one day…

5. Religion is human nature, study claims

A recent project that incorporated 40 different studies from all over the world is reporting that religion is instinctive for humans. As someone who is re-exploring the idea of faith, this is a pretty interesting concept… especially since I have been reading studies on how organized religion is depleting around the world.

According to Oxford University professor Roger Trigg (who led the study): “We tend to see purpose in the world. We see agency. We think that something is there even if you can’t see it. … All this tends to build up to a religious way of thinking.”

What are your thoughts? Are we predisposed to religiosity from birth? Is organized religion on the decline?

Six things Saturday

Hey folks! To make up for missing yesterday’s Five things Friday, I thought I’d give you a treat with an extra thing! Yay!

1. City Year’s In School and On Track: A National Leadership Summit

I had the great pleasure of attending NLS in Washington, D.C. this past week. I was brought there to help out with social media management, and it was a truly incredible experience. Since I was doing social media, I was considered to be a member of the Summit team which was great because I got to collaborate with a lot of really awesome people (what’s up Johnny and Elliot!) and feel like I was a real part of it. We hit over 1,000,000 impressions on Twitter in less than 24 hours, which was a big highlight for me.

Check out blog posts and Facebook and photos if you’re interested in learning more!

2. Ding-dong, Osama’s Dead

Clearly, this was the most newsworthy thing that happened this week. But what interested me the most wasn’t learning about how it was accomplished; it was how people reacted to it. Some claimed it was a conspiracy theory, some were jubilant, some were scared, and some were disgusted with the jubilant folks.

Personally, I’m glad he’s dead. I don’t think he deserved to walk the earth… but I didn’t exactly grab my American flag and storm the streets chanting USA! USA! USA! I’m interested to see what the blowback is going to be from all of this.

3. Emerson Update

I found an apartment and a roommate (still looking for 1-2 other roommates), got my class schedule (Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30-9:45) and my financial aid package. It’s totally becoming real to me now. I’m a little bit nervous about being back in the classroom, but I’m more psyched than anything. Classes start the first week in September, but I’m planning on moving to Boston in early July. Awesome.

4. New Music

Last weekend I rode my bike out to Rasputin Music out in Campbell. I ended up purchasing a few albums and my favorite of them all is definitely the Beach House album, Teen Dream. I’ve been wanting it since I saw them in concert with Vampire Weekend in the fall and finally got around to it. I highly recommend it.

I also purchased: Unwritten Law “Swan,” Foo Fighters “Wasting Light” and Hot Hot Heat “Future Breeds”

5. Obama’s Correspondent’s Dinner Speech

It ruled. If you have an extra 20 minutes, it is totally worth watching.

6. Ouch

So I’m a moron. I was playing tag on the Georgetown campus Thursday night and fell and hurt myself pretty bad. Scraped knee, back, toe, hand and elbow. It’s gross and painful. (Sorry to Colin, Andy and Romel whom I sent photos to… but I had to show someone).

Choosing happiness: lessons learned from tough times

For those of you who know me best, you know that I haven’t been happy in awhile.

For the past six months at least, I’ve allowed myself to be bogged down with things that shouldn’t matter as much as I let them. It was starting to affect everything in my life. My performance at work, my relationships with those around me and to be honest, my overall health and well being.

There have been some pretty incredible people who have really been there for me during this trying time, whether it was letting me cry it out in their office in the middle of the day or texting me something funny and lighthearted, every bit has helped.

This past week was easily the worst week of my life. I had to watch one of the people I care about the most suffer in ways I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

But I need to walk away with some sort of positivity, or else it will eat me alive. I’m walking away with a new lease on life. I have the opportunity to re-evaluate what I spend my love and energy on and can choose to be happy. Happiness as a choice is something I’ve thought a lot about over the past two years. My roommate Greg has really kind of opened my eyes to it. He has so many great philosophies on life, and I have definitely learned a lot from him.

The first step towards this for me was to figure out where my priorities truly lie, and getting rid of the nonsense that I’ve allowed to consume me. The priorities I’ve settled on are as follows (in a somewhat particular order)…

Family: Seeing my family this past weekend really reminded me of why having these strong relationships are so important. You need someone who will drive 20 hours to be by your bedside. And someone who knows what to say to make you feel better, if even for a little while. It is a major reason why I’m moving back to the east coast, and I can’t wait for that time to come.

Maintaining Meaningful Friendships: Recently one of my co-workers gave her Life Works and described that people are like parts of a tree. Some are leaves, some are branches and some are roots. I want to dedicate more of my time to the people I know who are going to be mainstays in my life and accept that not everyone is meant to be in my life in a big way forever, just like I won’t be in theirs. Being back on the east coast should make this a heck of a lot easier as well.

Overall Health: I’m not just talking about going to the gym here (although that is a part of it). I want to feel healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I desperately want to play soccer again. And for the past year, I’ve opened myself up to the idea of religion/spirituality. It is something that is lacking in my life and want to find it, I just don’t know what that will look like. I really did enjoy reading The Tao of Pooh though.

Education/Career: I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am now and only plan on going up from here. I’m thrilled to be going to grad school at Emerson this fall. I got into a really competitive, prestigious program and I’m really proud of that. I can’t wait to be challenged academically and pull from all of my work experience. I also can’t wait to see what career opportunities will follow that. I plan on doing big things.

Being Civically Engaged: Voting, volunteering, paying attention to current events/politics. I do most of this now, but I need to make sure it stays a big part of who I am.

Travel: It makes me feel alive. I am going to get a passport as soon as I can. Let me know if you’re up for a trip to Europe. 

Five Things Friday: Early Edition

1. Grad School!

So I was accepted into Emerson College and RIT for graduate school. While RIT’s program is pretty great and it is super close to home, I opted for Emerson in Boston, MA. The program at Emerson is a Communication Management Program and I will be concentrating on Public Relations and Stakeholder Communication. I’m super excited about getting into my top choice program and am also really pumped to be moving to Boston. I’ve only been there a couple times before, so it will be great to get to know a new city and meet new people.

2. Social Media Strategery

Going off my future studies, I have recently been working on a social media plan for City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley’s annual fundraising gala, Starry Starry Night. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work on this because I have never worked on anything quite like it before. Last year I wasn’t able to attend the event because I was in Memphis serving as the maid of honor in my cousin’s wedding, so this year I’m hoping to go all out and make it a really huge event for our site.

3. Save Service

This week I had the privilege of writing a guest essay for my alma mater’s college newspaper the Cardinal Courier. I opted to write about the Republican budget cuts and encouraged the students of Fisher to help save funding for AmeriCorps. You can check out the essay here.

4. Financial Aid

So for the first time, I’m actually doing all of my own financial aid stuff and it feels pretty awesome. This is one of the first times I’ve really truly felt financially independent and its a really nice feeling. Hopefully I’ll snag some grants and scholarships…

5. Road trip!

So you may be wondering why I posted Five Things Friday a day early… Well, I’m going to be going on a road trip to Olympia, Washington with one of my good friends for five days and don’t know what my computer access will be like. Hopefully I will take the time to chill out, relax and enjoy some great food and wine (since I’m going for a food and wine festival). I’m super pumped to get away for the weekend…. wish us safe travels!

And do you guys remember that TV show Early Edition? That was my jam!

Get to know me March Mondays: Wordle Edition

For the past two weeks, I have shared who I am with you in a couple of different ways. This week, I don’t want you to just take my word, or wordle, for it.

If you’ve never heard of a “wordle” before, it is a toy for generating “word clouds” with text that you provide. I have done this before on my tumblr with my letter of intent for Emerson, but this week I decided to take two of the letters of recommendation that were written for me for admittance into graduate school and see what came of it.

So, here are some words to describe me provided by a couple of people who I highly respect:

Five Things Friday

As I introduced last week, each Friday I will share five topics that caught my attention or impacted my life this week.

1. House Votes to Stop Funding for Planned Parenthood

As someone who doesn’t have the most comprehensive health care, I rely heavily on the services that Planned Parenthood provides. In fact, they are the only doctor I go to, and that only happens once a year. Without their services, I honestly don’t know if I will be able to afford annual female exams in the foreseeable future. I actually ended up applying for a job as a communications coordinator for Planned Parenthood in Boston. Wish me luck!

Check out my dear friend Romel’s blog to see Three Things We Lose Without Planned Parenthood. (And I’ll give you a hint, abortions aren’t even on that list).

2. Video Resumes

So I’ve been pretty obsessed with revamping my resume (check it out here and please send me feedback if you have any). And recently I have discovered video resumes. I am seriously considering making one for my website. I think it could be a lot of fun and hey, maybe it will hook me up with a job! Here is the video that has totally inspired me:


3. City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley ATA

So at work this week we have been partaking in Advanced Training Academy (ATA). It is something that every City Year site does and is a great way to recharge, build community and show appreciation for one another. If you’re interested in checking out what we did this week, head on over to the City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley wordpress.

4. Getting hit with Homesickness

It’s getting to be that time of year when I really start to miss home. It’s been a couple months since I’ve been to Rochester and I still have about four more months to go. I’m really considering going home in April for Easter weekend since we have a four day spring break, but tickets are a little more than I can afford. I feel like I should just suck it up and wait until I graduate from City Year to go home, but it is really tempting to just throw it on my credit card and deal with it later. Sigh.

5. LACY Planning

Speaking of graduating in June, I’m trying to figure out what I will be doing with my life once that time comes. I’ve applied to three grad schools: Emerson College in Boston, RIT in Rochester and Elon University in North Carolina. I won’t hear back from Emerson until mid-April at the earliest and the other two I am waiting for letters of recommendation to get sent in. I’m still not even sure where I really want to go. I’m leaning towards Boston since the job market is better there, but I am also really thinking about going to Rochester. There are a lot of options to weigh. But first, I need to see where I get accepted.

Is a Gap Year right for you?

That is the question being posed in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. As young people across the country are looking towards graduation and what they plan on doing after they walk across the stage, it is an important question to ponder.

It used to be frowned upon for young people to “take time off” before heading to college. Parents worry that their children will go off track and never continue their education. But as more and more young people are getting involved in service, colleges are starting to take note.

Many colleges (including Princeton) actually encourage students to defer enrollment for a year or two to pursue other opportunities.

This article reported that:

  • A recent survey of 300,000 first-time freshmen at four-year colleges and universities found 1.2% waited a year to enter college.
  • Taking a gap year is linked to higher motivation in college, according to an Australian study of 2,502 students published in August in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
  • 5% of four-year colleges and universities have formal policies allowing students to defer admission.
  • 90% of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year.

There are plenty of opportunities to take a gap year. Last year I attended a gap year fair where I represented City Year. Many of the opportunities there were service based, but a lot of them cost thousands of dollars. Luckily, there are programs out there like City Year that give you the opportunity to take the time you need to figure out what you want to do with your life all while giving back to the community, developing as a leader and earning money for college.

When I graduated from college in 2009, I knew that I wanted to get a job and go to graduate school… but not right then. City Year was the perfect chance for me to move to a new city, meet new people and do some pretty incredible work. I wholly believe that my time at City Year was completely necessary for me to truly figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life and I am forever grateful.

As I’m filling out graduate school applications and looking into job opportunities for after my senior corps year with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, I know that I can do pretty much whatever I want in life. And that’s all thanks to my “gap year.”

New Year, new goals

Sorry it has been awhile since I’ve last posted. Between not remembering my password and getting slammed with social media stuff for City Year, it has been pretty difficult for me to keep up with my own personal social media outlets (as you’ll see, that is something I am hoping to get better with).

City Year has totally turned me into a goal oriented person and with the New Year fast approaching, it seems like the perfect time to lay out what my goals for 2011 will be. I hate referring to them as resolutions because that has the connotation that I will give up on all of them by the end of January. Plus, these are things that I will ask others to hold me accountable for and if I refer to them as resolutions all year long people will just think I’m weird.

So, here is what I’m hoping to accomplish in 2011:

  • Get accepted and enroll in graduate school to study Communications/Organizational Communication. Right now I’m waiting to hear from Emerson, RIT and Elon University. I’m also considering applying to DePaul University in Chicago, but will probably only do that if these other schools fall through. Keep your fingers crossed!
  • Keep up with my own personal branding. As someone who focuses so hard on the branding of the organization I am with, it gets easy for me to lose myself. I want to commit to writing at least one personal blog post a week and to have more on my Twitter feed than just foursquare check-ins.
  • Learn how to do basic film editing. Thanks to a contest within City Year that I won back in the spring, I won a flipcam which should be arriving any time. I really want to incorporate video onto the City Year San Jose wordpress and once I get my own camera, I won’t have any excuses to wait any longer.
  • Keep up with (important) current events. I still couldn’t tell you what wiki-leaks means and didn’t find out that Elizabeth Edwards had died until a week after it happened. However, I knew the second that Scarlet Johanssan and Ryan Reynolds called it quits. Celebrity pop culture is a big guilty pleasure of mine, but I need to not lose sight of what really matters.
  • Vote. Admittedly, I haven’t voted in the last two elections. I chalked it up to feeling “politically homeless” since I was living in a state temporarily and wasn’t keeping up with what was going on at home. This year, I really need to either register to vote wherever I end up or get an absentee ballot. It is one of the most important rights that I have as an American citizen and I can’t take it for granted anymore.
  • Be more open to giving feedback. I love receiving feedback because I am constantly striving to better myself. But when it comes to me giving others feedback, I totally freeze up. As long as my intentions are good, there is no reason why I can’t share feedback with my peers.
  • Get back in shape. It wouldn’t be a New Year’s-esque post without at least mentioning this. I haven’t played competitive soccer in a year and a half and I plan on getting back into it once I move back to the east coast. In order to be ready, I need to get my butt back in gear.
  • Get some manners. I’m not saying that I spit in public or eat with my elbows on the table here. Something I really want to work on is to not be rude when it comes to my blackberry. My desperate need to always know what is going on in the world has made it so I am not 100% present most of the time. Even if it is something as simple as leaving my phone at home when I go out to lunch with a friend or getting a watch so I don’t constantly have to look at my phone for the time, I’m going to do what it takes to stop being such a blackberry snob.

Seeing as 8 is my lucky number, I’m going to cut it off here.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2011?

Tips for the GRE Essays

I’m getting ready to take the GRE’s in a week and it has been pretty tough for me to find the time (and desire) to study. Getting into grad school is my number one LACY (Leadership After City Year) goal, so its time to buck up and get ready because this test is important and I have to do well whether I like it or not.

To help myself get prepared for the essay portion of the exam, I put together a little guide that other GRE test takers out there might find useful. I got the vast majority of the information from a generic GRE Guide website, and it was totally helpful. They had tips, an explanation of what each essay entails and a bunch of really great essay examples. I definitely recommend checking it out. (I will warn you, it isn’t the best looking website by far, but it was extremely useful).

GRE Issue Essay

What it is: You are given a topic that is debatable and you must share how you perceive the given topic. You should be sure to write your own views and thoughts in this essay. Using your own experiences and examples will make it strong.

How to structure this essay: Introduce the topic in the first paragraph and present which side of the debate you are taking. (Do you agree or disagree?)

Use three body paragraphs to support your position with one example per paragraph.

Conclude with general closing thoughts.

Tips: Use examples to support your thoughts!

Don’t write in the first person.

Make sure that you don’t stray from the main topic and that you have a logical flow. It can be easy to start discussing another issue as you present your examples, but do your best to stay focused on the topic at hand.

This essay not only asks you to demonstrate your thinking and perception, it is looking to see how well you can write. This may sound like a no-brainer, but use correct grammar and scholarly vocabulary.

GRE Argument Essay

What it is: You are given an argument by an author which you then need to determine if the argument is logical or not.

How to structure this essay: In the first paragraph you should make the statement about what the author’s conclusion is to their argument then cite what examples they use to support their argument. Next, discuss what your analysis of the argument has led you to believe. (ex: After careful consideration, it appears that there are several loopholes in the evidence that the author provides to support their argument. These unconvincing pieces of information will be further explored in the following paragraphs).

The next paragraph should take one or two of the pieces of evidence and show what is incorrect about them or what made them unconvincing.

Same thing with the next paragraph.

The final paragraph needs to explain what could have made the argument more convincing to you and restate that the argument is not supported enough by the facts that were provided.

Tips: Don’t speak in the first person.

Be concise.

Write chronologically (Firstly, secondly, etc.)

The only way you can really be prepared for the essay portion is to take these tips into consideration and practice, practice, practice. The format that is used in these writings may not be familiar to you (especially if you haven’t written in a formal setting in some time) so it is helpful to get the structure down.

Here is a list of example topics that you can use to practice:

Issue Essay

Argument Essay